Veolia Takes Exception to How It was Portrayed in Providence Water Story

By JOHN GIBSON

In response to the article that appeared April 1 by Frank Carini, Concerns About Corporate Takeover of Water Supply Overflow, Veolia North America would like to set the record straight about the company’s limited involvement in Flint, Mich., and demand a correction to a demonstrably false and outrageous statement contained in the article.

The article, which focuses on efforts by Providence Water to properly manage its water supply, irresponsibly attempts to cast Veolia in a negative light by linking the company to the lead crisis in Flint, although it has been well established that the company had an extremely limited consulting role in the city. In particular, we take strong exception to a sentence in the article which outrageously states, without proper attribution, that Veolia “is the company that used the wrong — and less expensive — chemical additives that corroded the lead pipes in Flint.”

This sort of wildly inaccurate statement, made, again, with no attribution, is recklessly false and represents a careless form of journalism that distorts the facts around this tragic case. To be clear: Veolia at no time had any supervisory or operational role in managing the water supply in Flint, much less maintained the ability to add or switch chemicals. Baseless assertions such as this are extremely dangerous because they create assumptions or false beliefs that are patently and demonstrably untrue (to get a fuller picture of Veolia's role in Flint, we encourage you to visit veoliaflintfacts.com).

Furthermore, we feel the depiction of so-called privatization transactions in the article is also misleading, as in most cases, such contracts involve partnerships between municipalities, which retain ownership and ultimate authority, and third-party experts who operate and maintain their water systems. Such public-private partnerships have brought enormous benefits to thousands of communities across the United States and Canada, improving safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. In more than 90 percent of these partnerships, municipalities have decided to renew their contracts with third-party operators, a clear indicator that such partnerships work.

At the least, we feel a correction to the statement about Veolia’s role in Flint is in order. We also wish to point out that the writer of this story never contacted Veolia ahead of time to get a comment — a fundamental and basic tenet of any kind of respectable journalism. In the future, we hope your coverage of this issue will reflect a much higher standard for the sake of your readers, and your credibility.

John Gibson is the chief operating officer for Veolia North America.

Editor’s note: A correction to the story was made April 4.